I Feel Like I’m Eight Years Old Again, But Not for the Best Reasons
I can't seem to write about anything else right now, so I thought I'd tell you a story about a moment from my childhood.
When I was eight years old, I saw a news report on television and there was rioting on the screen and racism was at its heart.
In 1974, I didn't understand any of that. To be clear, this was 10 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and rioting like what I'm describing was less frequent than in the 1960s.
I asked my mother what was happening and she explained it to me as best she could and then later, when I was still a kid, when the conversation turned back to this topic, she explained the horrors of racism to me.
When she was a little girl, my grandmother's housekeeper, who was African American, brought her daughter to work with her one day and she and my mother were playing together out back.
When their housekeeper--and I cannot remember her name, right now, to save my life--saw them playing, she really laid into her daughter for playing with a white girl.
Mom, of course, did not understand and was very upset and asked my grandmother about it. She told my mother that their housekeeper was afraid of what might happen if someone saw her daughter playing with my mom.
That was the 1940s.
I recently had a conversation with a good friend in which I told her "I think I am numb." I also said maybe I'm naive, but perhaps that isn't the right word. I explained that I'd watched the George Floyd video and saw him cry out that he couldn't breathe and then, eventually, cry out for this late mother.
So I've cried some more recently. And I was right. "Naive" isn't the word. Maybe it's "innocent."
Like a child.
A child who doesn't understand the kind of hatred he's seen played out periodically throughout his life.
Like an eight-year-old who turned to his mother to ask why people were so upset and angry and why people are mistreated for no reason.
Like a man, crying out for his mother as he died.